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Train hits tomato hauler
tomato pic
Tomatoes flood the intersection of Geer Road and Sante Fe Avenue on Monday after an Amtrak train hit a big rig. - photo by Photo courtesy of Julie Damas

A tractor-trailer loaded with thousands of tomatoes was struck by an Amtrak passenger train Monday afternoon just outside of Turlock, when the driver stopped his rig on the tracks, the California Highway Patrol reported.

The collision crushed the back end of the big rig, damaged a second vehicle and splattered tomatoes all over the roadway and the railroad tracks.

There were no injuries reported at the scene, though when the train reached the Modesto station around 4:30 p.m. 20 passengers had complaints of back and neck pain. Some were transported to Modesto hospitals by ambulance and others said they would seek medical care of their own, according to the CHP. All total, the train was carrying 159 passengers and four crew members.

Rigoberto Jimenez, 31, of Delhi was driving a 1991 Freightliner pulling two trailers full of tomatoes northbound on Geer Road. Jimenez had stopped at the Geer and Santa Fe roads intersection, with the back trailer stopped on the tracks, the CHP said.

All the railroads arms, lights, and bells were working properly at the time of the collision. The train engineer, 58-year-old Barbara Neu of San Leandro, activated the train’s whistle and applied the emergency brake, but a collision was unavoidable the CHP said.

Jimenez eventually saw the train approaching and jumped from the big rig. He was not injured and remained at the scene of the collision.

The force of the impact crushed the back trailer and propelled it into the southbound lane of Santa Fe, where it collided with the right side of a 2011 Toyota Camry, driven by Maria Enes, 46, of Hilmar. Enes was not injured according to the CHP.

A Turlock Irrigation District power pole was damaged in the collision.

Alcohol and drugs were not suspected to be a factor in the crash the CHP said.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.